Tourists don’t come to Amsterdam to eat. The Dutch city of debauchery attracts legions of travelers for other things – like, say, flowers or pretty paintings or twee canals – all of which build up quit an appetite. So one would think the city would have a flourishing street food scene to feed all these munchies-craving visitors. And not just in terms of availability but that some culinary entrepreneur would have realized this potential in the market and offer some seriously creative food (think state fair everything-on-a-stick cuisine or some variety on the theme of comfort food).
I recently found myself in Amsterdam with a sudden case of the munchies. After becoming hungry from … um, looking at so much art (yeah, that’s it), I wandered the city hoping to find something good to eat. I had to walk for a while, scouring the streets, peeking into storefronts, but I eventually found the best spots to quell my hunger.
Here, in no particular order, are best street bites in Amsterdam.Vending Machine Croquettes
One of the best things I ate in the week that I spent in Amsterdam came from a vending machine. Sprinkled throughout the city are shops called FEBO de Lekkerste. The walls are lined with vending machines that contain burgers, fries, chicken nuggets, even ice cream. The best, though, was the croquette filled with veal ragu and a peanut sauce. It was hot and fresh and tasted so good I had to get a second one. And for about $2, why not? I might be over-thinking this but the peanut sauce seemed like a nod to Holland’s colonial past in Indonesia. Whatever the case, I’m still thinking about that croquette.
From one of the best things I ate to one of the worst. If there’s a typical Dutch street food item, it’s herring. Dutch people line up at stands that dot the center of Amsterdam for herring. If you’re a lover of street food and slimy fish – and, really, who’s not? – then you’re contractually obligated to try this. Hold the fish up by the tail, raise it above your head and commence chewing. Hopefully you’ll like it more than I did. Get it on just about every corner or stop by the Amsterdamsche Vischhandel at 129 Zeedijk St.
Not far from the Amsterdamsche Vischhandel, is the Chinese restaurant Hoi Tin (at 124 Zeedijk St.). If you’re the type of person who chooses an ethnic restaurant based on the presence of that particular ethnicity eating there, then you’ve found the right spot. In fact, the restaurant itself declares it with a large sign out in front: “THE PLACE WHERE THE CHINESE EAT.” It’s also a great place to get a juicy pork bun for pocket change.
My second favorite Dutch treat are bitterballen. Thick, round, golf-ball-sized croquettes stuffed with a molten mix of veal or beef ragout spiked with spices like nutmeg and, sometimes, curry. Apparently, bitterballen were inspired by yesterday’s leftover meat dishes in the early 20th century. Today they’re just a damn bite available at most snack shops and pubs around Amsterdam.
I tried the French fries – served with curried ketchup – and they were sufficiently crispy and filling. Other street food options that I didn’t have the stomach space for (or, let’s face it, the interest) included pizza, hot dogs and kebobs. I think on my next visit to Amsterdam, I’ll stick to the vending machines.
[Photo by David Farley]